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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: political extremism

Pentagon Review Finds 100 Service Members Engaged In 'Extremist Activity'

Washington (AFP) - About 100 members of the US military took part in some form of "prohibited extremist activity" over the past year, the Pentagon said Monday as it released new guidelines for service members.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin ordered a review in February 2021 of the Defense Department's policies on countering extremism within the ranks.

The review came after the revelation that dozens of former members of the US military took part in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol by supporters of former president Donald Trump.

"The overwhelming majority of the men and women of the Department of Defense serve this country with honor and integrity," Austin said in a statement accompanying the release of the working group report on countering extremist activity.

"They respect the oath they took to support and defend the Constitution of the United States," Austin said. "We believe only a very few violate this oath by participating in extremist activities."

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the review found that "about 100" active duty or reserve members of the US military had participated in prohibited extremist activities over the past year.

He declined to specify what type of activity they had been engaged in, but cited advocating the overthrow of the government or "domestic terrorism" as examples of prohibited activities.

The working group does not list specific extremist groups in its new guidelines.

Among its recommendations were increased training and education for service members on what constitutes prohibited extremist activity.

"That includes very specifically, the guidelines for social media, what's permissible and what's not, with respect to extremist prohibited activities," Kirby said.

How Mental Illness Spikes Street Crime And Political Extremism

Antisocial behavior has reached pandemic levels. Disruptive airline passengers are punching flight attendants. Thugs are attacking Asians, gays and other minority groups. Criminals have grown more brazen in bringing violence to the streets and into American politics as seen in the savage invasion of the Capitol on January 6.

Mental illness clearly underlies a lot of these disturbing trends, with the cracks widening during the COVID-19 scourge. The pandemic deprived many of community, personal interaction and, for those on the edge of psychic breakdown, the in-person mental health services they relied on or need.

America's system for supporting good mental health has never been strong to begin with. The 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act did help expand coverage, but getting insurance to pay for treatment of serious psychiatric problems remains problematic.

And the need has risen. From March through October of last year, hospital emergency rooms saw a surge of patients seeking urgent mental care, according to JAMA Psychiatry. The numbers were far lower in the same months of 2019, right before the pandemic hit. The crises ranged from suicide attempts to drug and opioid overdoses to abuse of partners and children.

Last year, a third of American adults displayed symptoms of clinical anxiety or depression, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That was up from 11 percent in previous years.

Many of the Capitol insurrectionists had a history of mental illness and related social dysfunction. We made fun of several.

Eric Munchel of Nashville, Tennessee, who brought restraints police use on hands, legs and arms to the Capitol, was dubbed the "zip-tie guy."

Actually, Munchel had been charged with assaulting a man and woman in 2013. Recently fired from his job at a bar, he entered the Capitol costumed in paramilitary gear, his mother at his side.

Sean McHugh of Auburn, California, who attacked Capitol police with chemical spray, had accused the officers of "protecting pedophiles." McHugh, it turns out, had done jail time for statutory rape of a 14-year-old girl.

It was thought at first that Rosanne Boyland had been crushed to death in the rush of stampeding vandals, but the medical examiner concluded that the Georgia resident died from an overdose of amphetamines. Boyland had a history of drug use, including a charge of felony drug possession. The pandemic cut off her in-person group meetings of addicts.

When you look at some of the creeps who had been attacking Asians, you find something more than the usual racial animus. The homeless man seen viciously stomping on a 65-year-old woman of Filipino origin in New York was on parole for having killed his mother in front of his five year-old sister.

Another homeless man with 90 prior arrests was charged with slashing a gay man. Both the criminal and the victim were Latino.

You see madness in the faces of airline passengers throwing tantrums over demands that they wear masks. Videos show the protesters, usually women, making noisy and self-righteous stands for their right to break the rules. No matter how normally these disrupters dress, they radiate the look of the unhinged.

The mission here isn't to solve the dearth of psychiatric services for those barely hanging on. Others can better do that. Rather, it's to note that fragile psyches often lie beneath the growth of appalling behavior. And a society in the grips of fraying social ties is going to suffer more of it.

We now have an evil mix of social isolation and extremist rhetoric that some use to confer an air of respectability to their delusions. The social services that keep the mentally unbalanced in check need to be strengthened — and soon.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com